In 15 meetings against San Jose State dating back to 1978, the Boise State football team has pretty much owned the Spartans.
The Broncos won 14 consecutive matchups in the series before a 34-20 defeat in the 2020 Mountain West Championship game, which happens to be the most recent meeting between the two teams.
The Spartans will play in Boise for the first time since 2016 in a Mountain West contest set for 6 p.m. Saturday at Albertsons Stadium. And both teams are in major need of a win.
San Jose State enters with a 1-4 record, its only win coming against FCS program Cal Poly, while the Broncos have fallen to 2-3 after a nonconference loss to Memphis.
“This is my brotherhood, too. We didn’t accomplish what we wanted to in the nonconference. That’s the bottom line,” said Boise State coach Andy Avalos, a former Bronco linebacker. “There’s no excuses. .. But what we do have is an ability to grow forward, because our goal is still sitting right in front of us. We are 1-0 in conference play, and we’re going to take that approach every single week.”
The Spartans opened conference play with a 45-20 loss to Air Force before a bye last week, while Boise State held off San Diego State 34-31 in Week 4.
The Spartans boast the Mountain West Preseason Offensive Player of the Year in quarterback Chevan Cordeiro, who has 10,440 total career passing yards and ranks fifth all-time on the Mountain West career passing yards list. Meanwhile, the Spartans’ defense currently ranks 13th in the nation in pass defense, allowing just 162.2 yards per game.
San Jose State has played the 26th toughest overall schedule in the nation, according to Stats Perform, with their opponents owning a combined record of 18-2 (USC 5-0, OSU 4-1, Toledo 4-1, Air Force 5-0).
“They’ve had a challenging schedule,” Avalos said. “When you turn on the film and look at what they’ve done, and you take the score out of it and you take the numbers out of it, you see a team that is going to come in here with the ability ... to be successful.”
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Boise State’s defense against a struggling offense
San Jose State is kind of a peculiar team. There is only that win against FCS Cal Poly, but the Spartans trailed USC by just a touchdown at halftime, led undefeated Air Force 20-17 at the half before getting steamrolled and were beating Toledo 17-7 in the second half before losing 21-17. So they’ve played well in spurts.
One of the big problems for SJSU has been coming up with consistent production and big plays on offense. Cordeiro and running back Kairee Robinson returned as starters, with the QB getting big preseason recognition, but he hasn’t been dynamic, barely throwing for 200 yards per game. Robinson is the team’s leading rusher with only 284 yards. In the loss to Toledo, the Spartans had 268 total yards.
The ingredients are there for the Broncos to get well defensively. Boise State ranks No. 9 in the Mountain West in team defense and is yielding 496 yards per game against FBS competition. The unit needs a strong, aggressive, shutdown game to get rolling as the league schedule heats up — flying to the ball, getting sacks, forcing turnovers.
The two-headed quarterback system
So it’s easy to get snarky and ask what in the name of Steve Spurrier is going on at Boise State, but Avalos and offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan probably could not have picked a better game to trot out this plan with Taylen Green and Maddux Madsen both playing multiple possessions.
Why? Because if the coaches play it smart, all either QB will have to do is a lot of handing off, while picking good spots for play-action passes.
The reason why San Jose State has such a good pass defense statistically is because no one has needed to throw and because it already played Air Force, which treats pass attempts as if they were cyanide. The Spartans have been abused on the ground this season, giving up 216 yards rushing per game. Sure, watching the Falcons run for 400 on an ungodly 73 carries raised that average, but giving up 95 to Cal Poly lowered it. Against FBS foes, this is a defense whose best game was holding pass-happy USC to 160 yards rushing.
That being said, all eyes will be on both Boise State QBs as they try to stay sharp while not playing series after series after series. Having a pair of starting quarterbacks, so to speak, is a difficult proposition that has failed more often than it has succeeded. A steady dose of Ashton Jeanty and other running backs should help with whatever success BSU enjoys.
A stadium full of fans
It’s not just that the Broncos are going to be thrilled to be in Albertsons Stadium on the blue turf in front of their home crowd after back-to-back road trips. It’s that they will be thrilled to look up and see a whole lot of people, period.
College football may be king, but you wouldn’t know it watching the games in San Diego and Memphis, where empty chairs and bleachers seemed to outnumber human bodies in the stadiums. That won’t be the case here. It’s easy to envision a typically raucous crowd Saturday evening.
SAN JOSE STATE AT BOISE STATE
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf), Boise
TV: CBS Sports Network (Rich Waltz, Aaron Taylor, Tiffany Blackmon)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: Boise State 2-3, 1-0 MW; San Jose State 1-4, 0-1 MW
Series: Boise State leads the series 14-1, but their last meeting was a 34-20 SJSU win in the 2020 Mountain West championship game.
Vegas line: Boise State by 9.5
Weather: High of 79 degrees, 4% chance of rain, 6 mph wind